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Choosing a Domain Name

by trevor. Average Reading Time: almost 5 minutes.

What is a Domain?

Each website on the world wide web has an address know as URL or Universal Resource Locator e.g. http://www.trevorginn.com.  This is the address which is typed into a web browser to access a particular website.  A URL consists of two parts.  The first, http://www. determines this is a webpage which must be fetched using the http or hypertext transfer protocol.  The second, trevorginn.com is the called the domain and identifies a particular webpage.

Each domain name consists of two parts: the Mid Level Domain (MLD), and the Top Level Domain (TLD). The Mid Level Domain is the trevorginn in trevorginn.com. This part of the domain name can consist of up to 63 characters in .com, .co.uk, .net, or .org domains. Only letters, numbers, or hyphens are permitted, no underscores, exclamation marks or dots.

Every domain name ends in a top-level domain (TLD) name.  This is the .com in trevorginn.com.  The top level domain is always one of a small list of generic names such as .com and .co.uk or .org.

Domain names are purchased on a company called a registrar.  A registrar is authorized by the ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) to register and keep track of domain names on behalf of customers for yearly fee. 

Choosing a Domain Name

Choosing your domain name is one of the first tasks that must be performed when creating an online business and in some ways one of the most difficult.  Getting the right domain name is becoming increasingly difficult as so many domain names have now been bought or are being horded by speculators, hoping to sell them at a profit.

Branding and Domain Names

A domain name should be the same or at least closely related to the name of the website or the business.  This is important for the simple reason that when people think of a website, they will think of its name. If the name of the website is also the domain, it will be easy for them to remember.  For example if a website is called Under floor Heating, but uses the domain name underfloorheatinglimited.com, some people will inevitably get the URL wrong.

When launching a new company the choice of company name will probably be based partially on the domains which are available.  For an established business or requires a specific domain which is not available things may be tricky.  The only choice is to try to buy the domain off its current owner (be prepared to pay through the nose) or choose a related URL. 

Whatever domain is chosen, it should be distinct.  If a potential customer does a search on a brand name and is presented with a number of similar sounding alternatives, it will make it difficult to find the right site.  Similarly do not be tempted to choose a domain name which is similar to a well known business, as this has only the potential to confuse and annoy customers.

Keyword vs Branded domains

When purchasing a domain a business has the choice of whether to create an original brand for their company or use a domain which contains keywords relating directly to their products. An example of a keyword domain would be mortgage.com where as an branded domain would be flickr.com, yahoo.com or zavvi.com which are generic.

There are advantages to either approach.  Keyword domains have search engine optimization benefits as the domain refers directly to the products for sale on the site. By choosing a domain that matches a keyword search, you may be able rank higher for targeted keywords and thereby benefit from added traffic and more potential for sales.  However on the down side, simple keyword domains are very difficult to obtain for a reasonable sum.  Branded domains on the other hand can more distinctive and easier for customers to recognise.  Branded domains also allow companies more freedom to use their imagination when choosing names. 

A third way, pursued by many new companies is a combination of these two approaches.  Combing a brand name with a keyword, gives the advantages of brand recognition as well as keyword inclusion.  Examples include arenaflowers.com for flowers and hellobabyshop.com for baby products.

Keep it Simple

A good name should be impossible to misspell.  Avoid the following features when choosing a name:

•    Hyphens.  It is easy to forget the hyphens when typing a name. 
•    Numbers.  Names which use numbers are difficult to remember.  The domain name auctioning4u.com is very easy to misspell as auctioningforu.com or auctioningforyou.com
•    Plurals.  If a domain name is not available, do not be tempted to simply buy the plural.  A high proportion of your traffic will be lost to misspelling
•    Hard to spell words.  Making your domain name hard to spell is asking for trouble.  Test a domain name out on some potential customers and see if they can spell it properly.
•    Short.  Domain names can be up to 63 characters but don’t be tempted to use all of them.  To make your name easy to remember keep it short, but use proper words as these are easier to remember. 

.com or .co.uk

This is a difficult question to answer. The .com top level domain is the default domain which user enter.  However, using a country country level domain can have search engine benefits for country specific services.  The best advice is to choose a domain name which is available in both .com and .co.uk.
 

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